Ethiopian Christians across the East African country are celebrating Christmas Friday.
As this year’s Christmas came amid a year-long deadly conflict in the Northern part of Ethiopia between government and rebel forces with an eventual humanitarian catastrophe, Ethiopian Christians are now celebrating Christmas in a feebler mood than ever with widespread calls for togetherness and reconstructing the country from conflict-induced distractions.
Wishing a happy Christmas to all Christians, religious leaders have all called for peace and unity during Genna (Ethiopian Christmas) celebration.
Celebrations start with church services on the eve of the holiday, and festivities continue with people enjoying special foods and drinks, as well as visiting and exchanging seasonal greetings with friends, neighbors, and relatives.
The unique Christmas celebration is among the major holidays in Ethiopia, bringing an extended family together to attend a series of events, including the slaughtering of livestock, either a sheep, goat, or cow, depending on a household’s financial condition.
At the household level, it is the custom here for families to purchase chickens, sheep or goats while preparing special bread called “Diffo” in Amharic language, as well as local beverages, notably a house-made beer called “Tella” and “Tejj,” a honey-wine.
Coffee ceremony is an integral part of the celebration. The ritual of coffee serving and drinking, which can last for hours, is an important social occasion offering a reunion for relatives and friends and a chance to discuss community matters while enjoying top-notch coffee.
To be invited to a coffee ceremony in an Ethiopian family is a sign of great respect.
Christmas is also a special day for children. They gather in groups and play games.
The year-long conflict, which was exacerbated by the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, is visibly weighing on the holiday market.
In the capital of Addis Ababa, market disruptions and price hikes are highly noticeable across markets, with soaring prices for festive commodities as witnessed by Xinhua journalists.
As often seen on major holidays, a community or a village will pool money to slaughter a cow (worth between 800 to 1,000 U.S. dollars) in groups, while each household can choose to slaughter a less expensive sheep or goats (about 140 U.S. dollars).
Mahlet Solomon, 29, who was out at the Meri holiday market in Addis Ababa to purchase chicken and other poultry products, said she bought an average size chicken for about 500 Ethiopian birr (about 10 U.S. dollars).
“An average size chicken was about 350 to 400 birr just a year or so ago. Now, I just spent 500 birr on this one. An egg used to be sold for about five birr, now it’s eight birr. The government should tighten its control of the market; otherwise, it will be very difficult for us if it continues this way,” Solomon said.
Abrak Manaye, a businessman in Addis Ababa, is one of the desperate buyers at the Shola live animals market in Addis Ababa, who usually purchases both a sheep for his family and a cow with neighbors.
“This year, the inflated price forced me to choose one. Since sharing a cow is a religious and social tradition that has lasted for generations, I have decided to honor the traditions,” he added.
GREAT ETHIOPIAN HOMECOMING
This year’s Christmas celebration in Ethiopia has witnessed a huge influx of Ethiopians and people of Ethiopian origin to the East African country following the “Great Homecoming Challenge” that was announced by the Ethiopian government last month.
The homecoming call, which is a personal initiative of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, envisaged 1 million Ethiopians, people of Ethiopian origin and friends of Ethiopia would join the unique Christmas celebrations.
The Ethiopian government, which formed a national committee and a dedicated online portal to coordinate the initiative, said the national call aimed “to debunk the undue pressure exerted on Ethiopia; to defy interference and show solidarity of Ethiopians on national issues.”
With various celebratory events that include symposiums, sporting events and visits to the internally displaced people (IDP), the initiative serves an overarching goal of encouraging sustainable diaspora engagement in the country’s overall affairs, it was noted.
The call seems to have played a significant role in facilitating an influx of Ethiopians in spite of the country’s difficult security situations.
According to the Ethiopian government, despite repeated calls by the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia urging American citizens to evacuate Ethiopia over security concerns, many people of Ethiopian origin in the U.S. have positively responded to the call. The U.S. is home to one of the largest Ethiopian communities outside the East African country. ■